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Author Topic: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions  (Read 1100 times)

grixm

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Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« on: October 22, 2023, 07:57:19 PM »
Just something I've been thinking about recently. Climate advocates clearly need some kind of new rhetoric when trying to convey the magnitude of emissions. In my experience, the vast majority of people do not care when you talk about x amount of CO2 emissions.

For example, consider this sentence: "This coal power plant releases 5 megatons of CO2 a year". The average person thinks (and most importantly, feels) nothing when hearing this. They don't know how much or little that is, and they don't know what effect it has. This makes the statement practically worthless and will not convince anyone.

On the other hand, we do need some kind of objective metric to compare things. If we don't talk about exactly how much lower the emissions from green energy sources are, or how much something emits, then we cannot easily convince anyone that these things are good or bad. An example are wind farms. I've heard some people say that they are actually bad for the environment because they take a lot of energy to construct, dry up peat bogs which releases CO2, only last so many years and then need to be reconstructed etc. You need to be able to point to actual numbers in order to show that despite these flaws, wind turbines are still much, much cleaner than fossil fuel plants.

So what is the solution? How can we convey emissions in an objective way, but still have that message actually reach the listener and make them think about it? Ideally the rhetoric should target not just the logical part of one's brain but also the emotional part. This is far more effective for many people.

My preliminary solution is to translate CO2 emissions to death counts. Let's use the earlier example:
"This coal power plant kills 1130 people a year".
Now that sounds much more impactful to me, and I think it will turn far more heads.
How did I reach this number? This study has estimated that for every megaton of CO2e released, 226 people will die prematurely within this century. Of course this is very approximate, but if we consider that the effects of climate change will last longer than just this century (if society even survives that long, that is), and also that it causes a lot of suffering that isn't actual death, I'd say the figure actually undersells it. But it's good enough, and can easily be backed up with sources.


NeilT

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2023, 05:46:20 PM »
Most people don't believe those kind of numbers then start demanding that you show how it works.

There is another way.

You can tell them that so long as there is One large coal fired power station in the world there will never be another ice age.

Then tell them how many coal fired power stations there are in the world and then tell them that far from an ice age we're heading more for primordial swamp with our CO2 emissions.

Then you can point them to this video where it is blindingly obvious what we are doing.

Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.

Robert A. Heinlein

gerontocrat

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2023, 09:54:22 PM »
"But don't you know, extra CO2 is good for us - makes the plants grow faster"
For everything you say or show, the climate denial industry has a soundbite to counter it.

About the only thing that it is hard for Climate Denial to counter is phrases such as -
"Your wallet is being screwed."
"Want to save loads-of-money?"

Me, I spent too many years facing down ignorance and pure bone-headed resistance that just made me very unpopular with the powers-that-be.

Oh, and  when I get forced to listen to the climate denial crap, I make it clear I can't be arsed to engage with bullshit. If I get the chance - I might leave the field with a remark such as "10 years maybe, at most, before it all turns to shit around your ears".

Why engage in a meaningless discussion with a "pack-a-idiots"? (a common phrase from Liberia in the 1980's). Perhaps it is better to think about survival strategies and logistics to protect yourself and your loved ones.

I am not in a good mood today.

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"And that's all I'm going to say about that". Forrest Gump
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kiwichick16

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2023, 03:03:42 AM »
@  gero  ......+1

DanLittle

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2023, 07:17:47 AM »
For the naysayers…

“It doesn’t matter how much CO2 the trees have when they’re on fire.”

“You’re right, the scientists and models were wrong, but maybe not in the way you’d think.”

I’m not a scientist, but I’ve worked in the outdoors for a long time. I have seen enough changes to give first hand accounts. Distancing from some of the politically weighted lingo tends to help avoid some pushback. Even my dad, who main-lines Fox News, understands he can’t plant his grass at the same time every year because the soil is staying too warm.

I find for many Americans that don’t understand what’s happening due to politics, they love an excuse to prep for SHTF situations. So it’s almost easier to get them to accept how bad things are, and get on board with the need to be more resilient as a society. Solar on homes will always be the best for energy independence, even if we pumped all the gas and oil from the desert and forests the trucks will stop one day. I’m also a huge outdoor advocate and have spent time in these forests and deserts, and gladly stand up for the need to preserve them. The problem for me is always tying it back to emissions being the cause, but we still need fossil fuels to transition so I don’t harp on that with them. At the end of the day, none of the info will affect the way they vote, which is where the change will get facilitated on a large scale.

For the people whose politics don’t challenge the validity of climate science, most of them aren’t really willing to make any real changes or sacrifices to their ways of living, regardless of how much they understand about the problem. They’ll vote for the candidate that says they will support the transition to renewables, but will use a paper straw every now and then and fly all over the planet for frivolous vacations. They’ll be on board with closing the coal plants, but will not change their consumptive behavior. So what, maybe small carbon price tags on literally everything for them?

Within the latter political group, there’s plenty of folks that just hear bad news and block it out. It gets more into psychology at that point and I get tired of perfectly wrapping a package so that the information can be digested, especially when it’s a gift of depression and guilt. As long as they vote for the candidate willing to address the issue, it’s best they stay distracted and unaware of how bad it has gotten.

I’m of the camp that we are really SOL at the end of the day, so I mostly just focus on taking care of myself and trying to enjoy life as much as possible. Unless literally everyone on the planet decides to wake up and all of the sudden start caring about preserving life on this planet, we’re fucked.

gerontocrat

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2023, 08:53:59 AM »
"First Dog On the Moon" has the solution....

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/25/climate-change-is-finally-solved-we-can-just-let-nature-take-its-course
Climate change is finally solved! We can just let nature take its course

It seems if you experience climate disaster you are much more likely to believe in climate disaster
"Para a Causa do Povo a Luta Continua!"
"And that's all I'm going to say about that". Forrest Gump
"Damn, I wanted to see what happened next" (Epitaph)

SteveMDFP

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2023, 04:32:28 PM »
...
Why engage in a meaningless discussion with a "pack-a-idiots"

Well, the people who choose to publicly debate global warming won't admit to changing their minds.  But there may be many in the audience who are not obstinate.  Engage for their sake, and craft your words to persuade them.

Bruce Steele

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2023, 06:01:09 PM »
Different people are open to different styles of discourse. I like story telling , make things personal and weave a tale that is believable and be ready to back it up with numbers but only if challenged .
 So I talk about how solar panels and batteries and readily available technology have worked for me or people I know. The story is about experience , how well things work and that they offer up some security when the power goes out as well as cost savings accrued .  For instance if I just said renewable energy technology is the way of the future and so and so promises grand things with lots of numbers and charts about a future not yet realized I would expect lots of people stretched out with their arms crossed over their chest. Part of that is my own doubt regarding such claims and the lack of conviction other people can easily recognize when listening. On the other hand if I say some technology I adopted eight or ten years ago that has worked flawlessly and returned both the cost of purchase and continued working I might expect to see some interest. Then I might add some numbers like my total annual utility bill is less that $500 . If those people are listening they will reply their monthly bill is more than that , they also know those costs are increasing. So then I can introduce ideas like an electric tractor that most people will never buy but they would be listening . I could tell them what I have been able to grow because food is if universal interest even if people never plan on gardening. I avoid anything sounding like I am trying to save the world because any fool would realize nobody can save the world singlehandedly. BUT even my arch conservative friends would like cheaper utility bills and energy during a blackout. You can explain how without batteries your solar panels will shut down during blackouts. I do have friends who have adopted solar/battery systems even though they waited and weren’t willing to be guinea pigs as the technology rolled out.
 So it is one mans story , believable and convincing enough that others are willing to copy some of my innovation. And what better form of flattery exists than imitation. No one person does change the world but one human at a time.
 I will leave the speculators and market mavens to their own devices. Different style and different audience and not likely to pay much attention to a farmer who talks and looks like a farmer.
 There is another audience in the environment camp that is best approached with different stories but there too experience and positive stories about what has worked will get me more open ears than telling them what won’t work and how the world is headed into the maelstrom. And yes some respect if they know me well enough to not shut me out just because I may be a difference political  flavor than they prefer.

kassy

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2023, 07:01:33 PM »
I don´t think there is one answer. People are very different.
Some don´t believe it is a problem.
Some believe it is a problem but well someone will solve it and we have plenty time for that.

Do you want to convince enough people to protest against the government until they do something meaningful?

Do you need to convince people it is not a future problem?

The discussion is very different depending on what people already know and also depending on what they are open too.

Also convincing individuals only goes so far. We do not actually get to vote on the measures.
Þetta minnismerki er til vitnis um að við vitum hvað er að gerast og hvað þarf að gera. Aðeins þú veist hvort við gerðum eitthvað.

The Walrus

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2023, 07:48:04 PM »
I agree, people are very different. 

Those that are close-minded, due to political or other reasons, will not change their opinion no matter what anyone says or does. 

Most are not so.  I have found the best approach to be open and honest about the topic.  Most people do not realize that science is all probablility, not mathematical proofs.  The phrase "it is not an exact science" applies to every field.  More so with climate science, because there are so many factors involved, some of which are poorly understood.  Giving ranges of probabilities and likelihoods of outcomes comes across as more realistic, than those claiming absolutes.

I will use this site as an example.  Many posters have made statements about the Arctic going ice-free in preceding years.  Thus far, none of them have come to fruition.  Unfortunately, this throws more fuel on the fire for those who do not (will not) believe.  The Arctic sea ice is unpredictable.  All we can say is that a warming climate is leading to reduced sea ice.  The trend is downward, but not as steep as some have claimed.

When discussing this with others, refrain from making unsubstantiated claims that can backfire.  Several have been stated about the Arctic sea ice, which I will not mention because we all know them fairly well.  Remember, there are those putting out misinformation.  Do not counter them with misinformation of your own.

NeilT

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2023, 09:48:13 PM »
Agreed about the arctic and setting dates.  But there is one thing we can say with certainty.  On the current track there Will be a BOE in the arctic in the future.  It may be 2100 or it may be 2024, we really don't know and the circumstances which do make it are already in play with Global warming.

So saying that there will be a BOE if we continue with our CO2 emissions is neither wrong nor creating misinformation.  It is simply a sad fact.

Now saying there will be a BOE on X date in the near or far future?  We don't know that and that is misinformation.

We should not withhold the consequences simply because we can't put a precise date on it.
Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.

Robert A. Heinlein

The Walrus

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2023, 10:04:18 PM »
Agreed about the arctic and setting dates.  But there is one thing we can say with certainty.  On the current track there Will be a BOE in the arctic in the future.  It may be 2100 or it may be 2024, we really don't know and the circumstances which do make it are already in play with Global warming.

So saying that there will be a BOE if we continue with our CO2 emissions is neither wrong nor creating misinformation.  It is simply a sad fact.

Now saying there will be a BOE on X date in the near or far future?  We don't know that and that is misinformation.

We should not withhold the consequences simply because we can't put a precise date on it.

Yes, this is the track we are on.  If we remain on that track, a BOE will eventually happen.  No, we cannot say when, and that is precisely the point.  Making claims that it will occur in the very near future just makes fodder for those who reside in another camp. 

I understand those who which to exaggerate the consequences or the immediacy of them in order to spur others to action.  However, that does more harm than good.  This should be everyone toegther and not an us vs them fight.

DanLittle

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2023, 01:32:47 AM »
I heard someone on the radio recently talking about the need to deliver messaging that every little bit of carbon still matters. For those that do care and are willing to change their lifestyle, I think that is a good reminder. Someone called in and brought up using clothes lines more frequently instead of driers which I thought was a good idea for decreasing energy usage.

I was in the solar business for a bit. When speaking with homeowners, regardless of politics, everyone just wanted to know it would save them money on their energy bills. Companies with more competitive pricing than the one I worked for may have been a better option on that front, but batteries were always a much larger expense. If not on individual homes, at least some utilities are making grid level transitions to renewables.

I never know exactly how to answer when people get to talking about specific dates of events. The loss of life is already measured in the billions, so regardless of when certain things happen in the future, we really do need to be acting and making changes now.

The Walrus

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2023, 02:23:20 AM »
I heard someone on the radio recently talking about the need to deliver messaging that every little bit of carbon still matters. For those that do care and are willing to change their lifestyle, I think that is a good reminder. Someone called in and brought up using clothes lines more frequently instead of driers which I thought was a good idea for decreasing energy usage.

I was in the solar business for a bit. When speaking with homeowners, regardless of politics, everyone just wanted to know it would save them money on their energy bills. Companies with more competitive pricing than the one I worked for may have been a better option on that front, but batteries were always a much larger expense. If not on individual homes, at least some utilities are making grid level transitions to renewables.

I never know exactly how to answer when people get to talking about specific dates of events. The loss of life is already measured in the billions, so regardless of when certain things happen in the future, we really do need to be acting and making changes now.

Billions?  When and where have we lost billions of lives?

DanLittle

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Re: Most effective rhetoric when talking about emissions
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2023, 04:13:34 AM »
Sorry I should have been more specific, I wasn’t talking about people. Here’s the big two events that stand out to me.

https://www.foxnews.com/science/heat-wave-killed-billion-sea-creatures

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/australia-fires-over-1-billion-animals-feared-dead/